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Indiana is full of many hidden treasure from the shores of Lake Michigan to the banks of the Ohio River. One of them is a little known train trestle in southern Indiana, southwest of Bloomington in Greene County. But “little” is the last word that should describe the Greene County Viaduct, affectionately known as “Tulip Trestle”. I first heard about Tulip Trestle some 15 years ago when a car club I was in made a trip to view the 2295 foot long structure.
Tulip Trestle was completed in 1906 at a cost of $246,000, or over $6 million in today’s dollars. It was built by the New York Bridge Company using mainly Italian immigrants making some 30 cents an hour, which was an above average wage for the times. And considering it took just 18 months to build, it makes their efforts even more impressive. All told the 2295 foot trestle stands 157 feet tall at its highest point and is supported by 18 towers.
Tulip Trestle is still used some 110 years after the first locomotive crossed it high above Richland Creek. Initially used to haul coal from Greene County mines, the Indiana Rail Road Company still makes several runs across it on a daily basis, and even shows off one of their trains crossing it on their website.
I’ve visited Tulip Trestle several times over the past 15 years to soak in an incredible product of the early 20th Century engineering. However, I’ve yet to be there at a time when a freight train has crossed. But recently some locals have created an observation deck on the north side where visitors can view a passing train, or just stand there to view the expansive viaduct. A Facebook page has been started by the group aiming to beautify the area around Tulip Trestle. You can join that page by clicking here.
The Green County Viaduct, Tulip Trestle, Tulip Viaduct, or whatever you’d like to call it, is about a 40 minute drive southwest from Bloomington, Indiana. You can view a map on how to get there by clicking on the Google Maps link here. And when you make the trip there and aren’t fortunate enough to see a train cross with a typical load of coal, here’s a fantastic drone video, complete with an Indiana Rail Road train crossing. Enjoy!
Sometimes I sit and wonder when I became addicted to road trips and all of the memories they create. Growing up, we frequently vacationed in northern Minnesota and drove some 800 miles each way from Indianapolis to our destination, which was a cabin at a resort on one of 10,000 lakes.
But I think I can point to a trip 30 years ago in July of 1985 that really opened my eyes to what a road trip vacation is all about. It was July 4th weekend of 1985 when my mom, dad, and I loaded up in my folks’ 1977 Chevrolet Impala. I was getting ready to head into my senior year in high school and my five older brothers were all out of high school and working jobs, so we had moved beyond the full family vacation. I was the last one in school, wasn’t working a part time job, so it was natural for just the three of us to hit the road.
Granted, my memory on the events of that week 30 years ago isn’t complete, but that trip made an impact on me to where I remember more about it than most people would. Our destination was an area mom wanted to go to, the northern most part of the upper peninsula of Michigan, specifically Copper Harbor, Michigan. We left on Saturday, July 6, 1985. We cruised north out of Indianapolis and went through Chicago via US 41.
We didn’t stop in Chicago, but we took the two lanes out of Chicago and into Wisconsin. We continued on through Milwaukee and finally that first night we started to look for a place to stay for the night. Unfortunately we were running out of luck the darker it got. We got into Green Bay, Wisconsin in the 11pm hour that night, and we couldn’t find a motel with rooms to save our lives. We found out we were passing through that part of Wisconsin where everyone stayed who were in for the annual Oshkosh air show, which brought hundreds of thousands in from all parts of the world.
So there we sat at midnight in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn in downtown Green Bay. No Vacancy. At this point, mom was pretty hot, in every sense of the word. We were all tired and cranky, and at that point mom told my dad, “Oh, let’s just go home!” to which my normally mild mannered dad quickly shot back with “I’m not driving back tonight!”. Mind you, Indianapolis was some 400 miles back south. Once cooler heads prevailed, it was decided the farther we get away from the Oshkosh airshow, the better luck we’d have finding a room. So we decided to make the best of it and head north out of Green Bay. We motored up US 141, a 2-lane US highway that cut through the woods and pastures of northeastern Wisconsin. Back in 1985, there were very few 24 hour gas stations, and at one point we had to pull off so mom could visit a field so she could relieve her bladder. We still hadn’t found a place to stay, but before we got to the border of Michigan, we found a 24 hour roadside cafe where we pulled in around 1am to grab a bite to eat.
I don’t recall the name of the place, but we were all tired, hungry, and half asleep. The one thing I remember about the place is that it was the first time I had a burger that had BBQ sauce and bacon on it. Other than that, I was ready for bed. Fortunately just a few miles up the road, we crossed into Michigan and into the town of Iron Mountain. FINALLY! It was 2am and there was vacancy at the Holiday Motel.
After doing some homework, I’ve found that is no longer called the Holiday Motel, but it is still currently in business operating as an Econolodge.
After our short night’s stay, we forged north into the upper peninsula at Houghton. Cool little town with a neat little draw bridge that still functions today.
On Day 2 we forged ahead and headed towards Copper Harbor, which is at the very tip of the peninsula. We stayed that night at Eagle Harbor at the Shoreline Motel. Loved this place! Situated right at the harbor, it’s a little mom & pop motel resort with an onsite restaurant. And much to my surprise, it’s still open with the onsite restaurant. There’s a lighthouse on the other side of the harbor, and I vividly remember laying in bed with the window open listening to the waters of Lake Superior splashing against the beach while the bell on the buoy in the harbor occasionally rang. And a little pesky mosquito buzzed around my ear while I tried to get to sleep. How’s that for a memory? It looks like we stayed in Room 4, as I took a picture with my mom waving at me from inside.
The Brockway Mountain Drive offers some incredible views of not only Copper Harbor, but also Lake Superior for as far as the eye can see. One thing that was different for me was how late the sun set up there. The picture above was taken somewhere in the 9pm hour, and the sunset close to 10pm. That night we stayed at a motel in Copper Harbor, but I can’t for the life of me remember the name. It was situated back into some trees not far from the end (or beginning) point of US 41. The last time I was up there, the motel was closed, but the building was still standing.
That night we ate at a restaurant that still is there today called the Harbor Haus. Great seafood they had with a great view of the harbor. One of the locals told us if we really wanted to experience Copper Harbor, we needed to head to the city dump at sunset. Apparently black bears made there appearance at the dump and it was quite the tourist attraction. The dump is now closed and the bears find their food by other means, but it was one of the highlights of the entire trip.
For the remainder of our trip, we headed west and went into our old vacation spot of Park Rapids for a couple of nights before working our way back home. Not to say that leg of the trip wasn’t fun, it wasn’t new and adventurous as the first 3 days were.
So as the 30th anniversary of that trip approaches in a few weeks, I look back on it with great memories, especially knowing it was the last trip I’d take with both of my parents, as my mom passed away a little over a year later. Her passing made the trip that much more special. And as a 17 year old, it made an impression on me that shaped me as a traveler.
I hope to get back up there and retrace as much of that trip as I can. Perhaps even stay at one or more of the rooms we stayed in. There’s a lot of my soul as a road warrior up there. My passion for hitting the road is deeply rooted in the memories of that trip, and those roots are alive and well in the Keweenaw Peninsula of northern Michigan.
**All photos above were from the trip.
Below is a slideshow of all Pat’s photos from Kerola Campers 2012 Big Little Rally.
Click any photo to stop the slideshow and view the photos on my Flickr site.
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Here’s hoping Santa brought you plenty of new camping gear for 2012, and maybe even a new trailer for those of you who’ve been extra nice!
Campout for the Teardrops & Tiny Travel Trailers summer rally.
Slideshow of Pat’s Photos
For more details about a particular photo, click on it in the slideshow and it will open in my Flickr site.
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Since picking up our Serro Scotty HiLander a week ago, we’ve found out the prevailing question we can anticipate in the future: Is that new or restored? We encountered that question twice while camping in Batesville, Indiana Sunday. That’s a fair question to ask from those who remember Scotties from the trailer’s hey-day in the mid-late 1960’s.
The HiLander model was introduced in 1964 and was manufactured until the late 1970’s. Little changed in the design, and with the popularity of them during those years, there was little need to fix what wasn’t broken. John Serro strived to build a line of small but roomy, lightweight trailers that were affordable. Few could argue the success he had, as Scotty built travel trailers from 1957 through 1997 when a devastating fire at their last remaining plant located in Irwin, Pennsylvania put them out of the travel trailer business. Two other plants in Bristow, Oklahoma and Ashburn, Georgia had already closed in the early 1980’s.
Fast forward to 2006 when an RV dealer in western Pennsylvania wanted to see the past brought back. Bill Kerola worked with John Serro’s grandson to bring the Serro Scotty name back and did so with the introduction in 2007 of the 13′ Sportsman and 15′ HiLander models. Now produced by horse trailer conversion specialists Sierra Custom Interiors in Bristol, Indiana, Serro Scotty Worldwide offers a line of five different trailers from which to choose. For us, it was the 15’9″ HiLander, the largest rig they offer. We love just about anything retro, so going with a Scotty for our next trailer was going to be a perfect fit. We went as far as to have them add a black & white checkered floor and aqua boomerang counter and table tops to add to the 1960’s feel.
Their brochure asks you to “Stand apart from the crowd with this timeless classic.” We’ve found early on during our brief ownership that standing out isn’t a hard thing to do with the HiLander. That is, unless you’re at a rally of original Scotties. To the average Joe, they probably couldn’t tell which one was built in my birth year of 1968 (Courtesy of Scott’s Flickr page)…
to one that was built just weeks ago (Ours with Sierra Interiors manager John).
But whether it’s old or new, Serro Scotty is an iconic name in the history of travel trailers that won’t soon be forgotten. Bill Kerola is making sure of that.
Sorry for the lack of posts! Unfortunately my internet connection at the Joplin Holiday Inn was AWOL until yesterday morning before we left, so I’m just now able to get a new post up.
Oklahoma is HOT this time of year! It was in the low-mid 90’s and it felt it. We stopped off in the morning at the World’s Largest Rocking Chair where we met a couple from Minneapolis who were cruising Route 66 from Chicago to L.A. We found a neat little diner in St. Robert where we had a late breakfast.
After a visit with Ramona Lehman at the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, we jumped back on 66 and made our way into Joplin. We then made our way to Miami, Oklahoma for dinner after picking up Denny Gibson from his motel in Baxter Springs, KS. We had dinner at Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger…one of our must-stops on 66…and had some good grub and road chat.
After a brief stay at a welcome party for the festival, we made our way to the Downstream Casino in Quapaw, Oklahoma and spent some time with Jim Ross, Shellee Graham, Jerry McClanahan, and Joe Sonderman and swapped trip stories to end the night.
After getting a somewhat late start out of Indy this morning, we made it to Springfield, IL in a record 3 hours for lunch at the Cozy Drive In.
Afterward, we picked up Route 66 and headed south through Farmersville, Litchfield, and Mount Olive before arriving in Collinsville. I was on a mission. It’s been more than 6 weeks since we ordered our Serro Scotty trailer, and I needed a fix…bad. The first time I saw one in person was at an RV dealer there back in November. We arrived at Randy’s Trailer Town to a scorching 92 degrees, but that didn’t stop me. I was pleased to find not one, but TWO HiLanders there to gush over. One was unlocked, so we went in just so I could open every cabinet again, check my head clearance in the wet bath, and just sit at the dinette for a minute and imagine what it’ll be like in a couple of weeks sitting in our own HiLander at a campground somewhere in Indiana.After getting the satisfaction I needed, we jumped on I-70 and made our way through rush hour traffic in St. Louis. We then picked up 66 again in Eureka and continued on it the rest of the evening. We pulled in to the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri for our overnight stop. The Wagon Wheel is in the process of a total refurbishing, thanks to new owner Connie Echols. The Wagon Wheel is a classic Route 66 motel, dating back to 1936. Highly worth the stop!
After checking in, we walked next door to a place I’ve been wanting to try for a long time: Missouri Hick BBQ. It’s been here only 8 years, but after one bite, I found their ribs to be legendary! After devouring our tasty BBQ, we walked back over to the Wagon Wheel and admired their classic neon sign.
At that point, our day was done. Then it was back in to use their free wi-fi and post the day’s activities. For a complete view of today’s fun, click here. Stay tuned for Day 2 on Thursday!
Here it is Wednesday morning and we’re getting ready to head off for five (hopefully) peaceful days on the road. Our day will start off with a drive out to Springfield, Illinois where we’ll have lunch at the Cozy Dog Drive In, well known as the restaurant where the corn dog was invented 50-some years ago. From there, we pick up that grand old two-lane highway, Route 66 and take it south into St. Louis, where chances are we’ll be diving into a concrete from Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, another Route 66 icon dating back to 1941. After that, we meander our way through the Ozarks of Missouri before picking a spot for the night.
Thursday we’ll finish our drive along 66 in Missouri and head into Joplin where we’ll bunk up Thursday & Friday nights. The Tri State Route 66 Festival is our destination, just over the Missouri/Oklahoma border, at the Downstream Casino. Friday we’ll be cruising throughout central Oklahoma. As some of you know, we’re big into photographing old movie scene locations and there are a couple of towns where “Rain Man” was filmed that we’re going to hit. We also plan on hunting down an old plant that used to build Serro Scotty trailers back in the 1960’s, since we’re (almost) new owners of a 21st century model.
Looking forward to hooking up with some of our old Route 66 friends we’ve met throughout the years this weekend. Feel free to follow along with us here on the blog, as I hope to have daily updates and photos of our trip as internet connectivity allows.
Off we go!
Many folks who have vintage Serro Scotty trailers also have a Scottish Terrier for a pet. Why not? The Scotty trailers have adorned a black terrier in their logo since the early stages of the company’s existence in the late 1950’s.
Back in December after we made the trek to Transfer, Pennsylvania to talk with the folks at Serro Scotty Worldwide about getting a HiLander, we were pretty sure after this trip we’d one day get one. On the return trip home, we found ourselves at an antique mall somewhere west of Columbus, Ohio on US 40. We walked around a bit to stretch and look at some of the booths. It was there we knew that one day we were going to have that trailer. For $15, we had our confirmation. A little fellow we affectionately named Winton:
We never wanted to get a Scottish Terrier, let alone any dog, but this little guy offered us no mess and no noise. The perfect pet. Now that our HiLander is in production, I decided it was time for Winton to get a little makeover. So, to coincide with the Serro Scotty logo, I gave him a nice black coat of paint and painted his little bow tie red:
Winton will be with us on all our future trips in our Scotty, and will find himself sitting under the awning watching the world go by…just don’t offer to play fetch!